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Hints, Tips & News From The World Of Music Software

More hints and tips from the wonderful world of music software.



A typographical error last month led to the wrong symbol being printed. The symbol to the left of the Creator or Notator event editor screen, which acts as a display filter for System Exclusive data bytes etc, is the # (number) symbol, not the £ (pound) symbol, which does not exist in either program.


C-Lab Director is an accessory program that allows you to re-route the MIDI output of a compatible synth editor program to the Unitor or Export MIDI Out ports, so that you are not restricted to using only the Atari MIDI Out port for your editor. The first couple of pages in Creator's Soft Link chapter in the owner's manual could lead you to think that Director is supplied with the Creator and Notator program disks. Not so, and here's why:

(1) Director has nothing to do with Creator or Notator, beyond representing a little bit of the Soft Link concept.

(2) A few people have Atari STs with more than one megabyte of RAM. If they wish to run synth editors, they could have them run at the same time as Creator or Notator in the Soft Link environment (so long as the editors are compatible): the C-Lab sequencers provide the capability to re-route MIDI Out data to the various ports anyway, so no need for Director here.

(3) Most people have STs with 1Mb of RAM. They cannot use the full-blown 'Level 2' Soft Link by simultaneously running Creator or Notator with an editor in 1Mb of RAM (not enough room), but they could nevertheless let the editor use the MIDI Out ports of the C-Lab hardware peripherals by copying Director onto the editor disk and loading the editor on its own as usual into the computer (this only makes sense if they own Unitor or Export, of course).

(4) Director is already loaded on some of the C-Lab Explorer editor program disks; it also comes as a free disk with every Unitor: or it is available from Sound Technology on a disk - though please only order it if you really need it (ie. you have an Export or Unitor and a synth editor you wish to try it with: you do not need it otherwise!).


(1) Quick Bar Entry: Version 2.2 allows you to press the [Overline] key on its own (next to [Backspace]) which opens up a type-in box on the Main Bar Counter; type in the bar number you want the Counter to display and click OK or press [Return]: the Counter immediately jumps to the new bar, and so does the music if Creator or Notator are in Play mode!

(2) Quick Scrolling: to move around the Main Bar Counter in leaps and bounds, scroll the minutes value in the Elapsed Time Counter!


This large part of the event editor in Creator (or hidden behind the score editor in Notator) is affected by Insert Mode, so if this mode is switched on (there is a keystroke: [Shift]+[I]) and you move one of the note beams in time, all the events that lie after that note (as seen in the event list) will move in time by the same amount. Don't be confused by the matrix display when you move a beam with Insert Mode switched on - go by what is happening in the event list.


(1) P-USER 20 with value 0 inserted in a track will, as you know, automatically initiate a song load into the buffer, the song's name having been determined by pressing [Shift]+[Esc] with the event list cursor on the P-USER 20 event and typing in the name (see Creator manual). The song to be loaded from the disk will not be recognised if it contains any underline characters in the filename, so rename the song from the GEM desktop if necessary (see Atari owner's manual for explanation of menu 'Show Info').

(2) You must be displaying Creator's main page for the function to work. It will not happen in the event editor.

(3) P-USER 20 with value 127 inserted later in the track will, as you know, then delete the current song and replace it with the newly-loaded one. If the sequencer is in Play mode while all this is going on, the new song will continue playing from the bar at which the swap took place, not from the top of the new song - so be warned.


A user was able to do the following in real time: he had a mixture of Channels simultaneously coming into Creator in a merged state, and he wanted to remap, in real time, just the MIDI Channel 10 rhythm notes so as to match his new drum machine. The procedure for this is: Transform set 1, send Channel 10 notes to Universal Map 1.

He also simultaneously wished to send the MIDI Channel 1 data to Channel 2 as well. The procedure for this is: Transcopy set 2, insert Channel 1 notes in the 'model' line, and Channel 2 notes in the 'result' line.

For any multi-Channel operation like this, ensure that the empty tracks (the Creator MIDI Thru function, in other words) are displaying 'Original' Channel, ie. they are not re-Channelising.


The 'Editlink' program cannot predict what accessories or reset-resistant programs you will be loading into the other Soft Link partitions once Creator or Notator have been loaded: sometimes a message on the screen will say 'out of memory' when loading these sorts of programs, because the Soft Link partitions will have already taken all the spare RAM (the highest numbered partition acts as a 'sponge', mopping up any spare memory left over when you load Soft Link). The answer is to request less overall memory than you need in the Editlink window before you start Soft Link, the amount depending on the program: request less and less (in, say, 50K chunks) until it loads.


A useful tip is to add an extra little partition of 300 Kilobytes (the minimum allowed) for inter-file copying, viewing of the desktop, etc.



MIDI timing problems are widely misunderstood. Much has been written, a great deal of which is apocryphal. This month's column shows how you can minimise timing problems, and explains the MIDI delay myth.

MIDI itself is not very fast and often proves to be the limiting factor in determining how accurate the timing is. Typical of this is the well known problem of many notes being played simultaneously. In fact, they are not. Each note takes about 1ms (millisecond), or sometimes a little less due to running status. Typically, 20 'simultaneous' notes are spread over a 17ms time period. To get some idea of how long this is, try entering a 17ms delay time on an echo unit; it sounds like mild ADT (automatic double tracking). The problem generally manifests itself on drum parts, making them sound ragged. There are two things you can do to minimise this problem:

1. Use Trackman's auxiliary MIDI port for the drum parts. The auxiliary port timing is slightly better than the main port. More importantly, the MIDI data is now shared between two ports, which can greatly improve the overall timing.

2. Select 'Note Priority' from Trackman's Options menu. Click on the DO IT button. Do this while the sequence is playing and you will immediately hear the difference. Click UNDO/REDO repeatedly to compare it with the original, while the sequence plays. Note Priority changes the order of the MIDI data so that the drum parts are always sent first. It further optimises the data so that non-critical events are sent last and, after dealing with the drum tracks, sends the other track data in ascending order. You can take advantage of this by putting any critical instrument, such as a slap bass, on a low number track before invoking the Note Priority function.


There is a popular misconception about MIDI Thru outputs causing delays. A MIDI thru output is, according to the official MIDI Specification, "an output which provides a direct copy of data coming in MIDI in." This is perfectly unambiguous and indeed the Specification shows a diagram of a little circuit that accomplishes just this. The circuit is labelled 'MIDI Standard Hardware'

The kind of delay caused by this hardware is completely inaudible. A typical case, say a DX7 Mk1, causes a delay of around two microseconds. A well designed MIDI Thru, such as the Hinton Instruments MIDIX, achieves a delay of less than 200 nanoseconds! This tenfold improvement over the DX7 is due to high speed opto-isolators.

The only significant problems caused by this tiny MIDI Thru delay are additive rise/fall time errors, which affect the shape of the MIDI data waveform. When you cascade (daisy chain) several MIDI data errors, the waveform becomes so distorted that the last synth in the MIDI chain cannot make sense of it. This generally manifests itself as strange 'MIDIosyncrasies' that are difficult to track down. For instance, moving the pitch bend wheel on your master keyboard might cause an expander to change program.

You can avoid these problems by keeping the daisy chain short. The limit for equipment with slow (cheap) opto-isolators is usually three Thru's in a chain. Do not assume that a long chain that works always will. Opto-isolators exhibit an ageing characteristic that can affect performance.

By using Trackman's auxiliary MIDI port you can split one long chain into two shorter chains. If you need even more connections, a good solution is to buy a MIDI Thru box. A range of MIDI distribution devices is available from Philip Rees, whose advertisements appear in this esteemed journal.



Virtuoso Version 1.1 is now complete and being shipped. Contact The Digital Muse if you do not receive your update within the next few weeks.

The Virtuoso Modular Operating System, or VMOS for short, has now been fully implemented. Each of the items on the Virtuoso Main Menu is now a separate module - even the Quit option. Extra modules can be installed, as they become available, or existing modules that you do not use removed to save memory. If there are more modules installed than can be shown in the menu bar, then pressing the Atari [Alternate] key will show the further menu options.

Modules can also be installed as Virtual Modules. Virtual modules can still be selected from the Main Menu, but are not held in memory permanently. When selected the module is immediately loaded from disk, and can then be used as normal. When another Virtual Module is selected, the previous one is replaced in memory by the new one. Installing some of the least used modules as Virtual Modules will save more memory for musical data, while still enabling use of all Virtuoso's features.


With the Remote Control function you can control Virtuoso from your master keyboard. This will save you having to keep moving between keyboard and computer as you record your music. There are 46 different functions that can be controlled, including Stop, Play and Record, change Blocks/Tracks/Zones/Cues, Tempo changes, Copy/Chop/Wipe, and even the Panic! button.

The Remote Control settings are found on the Setup Page, and to set them to your requirements just choose two keys that are out of the range of normal playing, eg. the two highest keys on your master keyboard. Set the Master Event and Shift Event keys (in the boxes at the top of the page) to these notes. In the box below, the remote functions and the notes that control them are listed. The notes can be set to those that are convenient for you, and need not be out of your playing range, as the remote control functions will only operate when either the Master Event or Shift Event key is held down while the required remote function key is pressed.


Virtuoso can be used either as a pattern-based sequencer, making use of the Arrange Page facilities, or can be used in a more common tape recorder style by using just one Block for a whole song. When used in the latter fashion, the cues and zones become particularly useful as choruses, verses, links, etc can be specified and individually named. Zones can be used to specify processing areas on the Zone Page; for instance, processing could be carried out on only verses, leaving choruses intact, or perhaps the middle-eight and the link into the last verse need some attention, without disturbing the rest of the song. All the named zones will appear in the list to the left of the Zone Page, and any or all can be chosen at once to designate the area to be affected by the processing.


When using just the one Block for a song, the Block commands (Copy, Cycle, Chop, Wipe and Insert) are important to allow you to transfer data to other places in the song. Remember that the left button will do the operation to just the selected track, while the right button will do the operation to all active tracks.

As an example of how quick and easy it is to use these functions, let us assume that you have just recorded a four-bar section, with the left and right Zone Markers set to 001:00:00:000 and 005:00:00:000 respectively. Click with the right mouse button on the switch to the left of the right Zone Marker, then click with the right mouse button on the Copy Button. With just two mouse clicks you have now doubled the length of your recorded section. You could double it again with two more clicks, this time using the left mouse button on the right Zone Marker Switch, and then clicking with the right button on Copy.

All the other Main Panel processes work in a similar way, so try them out and you will soon become confident with these extremely quick and useful functions.


It is not possible to enter tempo changes from the Block Page, but this can easily be done from the Arrange Page. Even if you have a song made up of only one Block it can be placed by itself onto the Arrange Page, and the tempo changes either inserted manually or recorded in real time.

To record the tempo, select 'tempo map' and 'record' from the tempo map box on the Arrange Page. Whilst playing the track, move the tempo slider or change the tempo display numbers with the mouse and your changes will all be recorded. When you stop Virtuoso the tempo map will automatically be enabled, and the tempo changes will be displayed in the arrangement list.


There will be a module for Virtuoso available shortly which will allow full score editing and printing. In the meantime, if you need to print out the work you have done with Virtuoso as musical notation, you can make use of Virtuoso's MIDI File compatibility. A song saved as a MIDI File can be loaded into any other MIDI File compatible scorewriter, and the printing done from this.

Most score printing programs, however, are rather too expensive to be bought just to tide you over, but we do recommend Dr.T's Copyist Apprentice, which costs only £79.95, is MIDI File compatible, and which we have found works excellently with Virtuoso.

PLEASE NOTE: Product information contained within these pages is supplied directly by the software manufacturers, their UK distributors or agents. The intention is to provide a 'bulletin board' service for SOS readers who own or use software for any type of computer. Although we will occasionally publish new product information, the intention is to publicise update/upgrade news, bug fixings, hints and tips about any piece of software and computer peripherals. It is therefore up to all software companies to keep us posted.

Previous Article in this issue

Keyboard Music

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The Music Network

Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.


Sound On Sound - Mar 1990


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> Keyboard Music

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> The Music Network

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